OnePlus 5 vs. Google Pixel XL: Can the OnePlus workhorse defeat the Android darling?

oneplus 5 vs google pixel back 3
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends
The so-called “flagship killer” is back for 2017 — after months of rumors, OnePlus has finally unveiled the OnePlus 5. The Chinese manufacturer is known for offering flagship-tier phones at a reasonable price, and that trend continues with its latest addition. The OnePlus 5 boasts the latest processor, copious amounts of RAM, and a strong camera.

The OnePlus 5 may be one of the best Android phones on the market right now, but it’s not the only great device on the market. Google’s proprietary set of smartphones, the Google Pixel and Google Pixel XL, were widely praised, and the Pixel sits as our favorite Android smartphone at the moment. Can the OnePlus 5 take that crown? We put the two phones to the test to find out.

Specs

OnePlus 5

OnePlus 5

Google Pixel XL

Size 154.2 × 74.1 × 7.25 mm (6.07 × 2.92 × 0.28 in) 154.7 × 75.7 × 8.5 mm (6 × 2.9 × 0.3 in)
Weight 5.39 ounces (153 grams) 5.92 ounces (168 grams)
Screen 5.5-inch AMOLED 5.5-inch AMOLED
Resolution 1,920 × 1,080 pixels (401 pixels per inch) 2,560 × 1,440 pixels (534ppi)
OS Android 7.1.1 Nougat Android 7.1.2 Nougat
Storage 64GB or 128GB 32GB or 128GB
SD Card Slot No No
NFC support Yes Yes
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 Qualcomm Snapdragon 821
RAM 6GB or 8GB 4GB
Connectivity GSM / HSPA / LTE GSM / HSPA / LTE / CDMA
Camera Front 8MP, Rear Dual 16MP and 20MP Front 8MP, Rear 12.3MP
Video 4K 4K
Bluetooth Yes, version 5 Yes, version 4.2
Fingerprint sensor Yes Yes
Other sensors Gyroscope, accelerometer, compass, proximity sensor Gyroscope, accelerometer, compass, barometer, proximity sensor
Water Resistant No No
Battery 3,300mAh 3,450mAh
Charger USB Type-C USB Type-C
Quick Charging Yes Yes
Wireless Charging No No
Marketplace Google Play Store Google Play Store
Color offerings Black, gray Black, silver
Availability Unlocked, OnePlus Unlocked, AT&T, Verizon
Price Starts at $480 Starts at $770
DT Review 4 out of 5 stars 4.5 out of 5 stars

There’s no point beating around the bush here — no matter how you look at it, the OnePlus 5 is a more powerful phone.

There are a few reasons for this. For starters, the OnePlus 5 makes use of Qualcomm’s latest chip, the Snapdragon 835. This is a top-tier chip that powers many of the flagship phones for the year, including the Samsung Galaxy S8, HTC U11, and — if the rumors prove true — Google’s successor to the Pixel. The Pixel XL, on the other hand, boasts last year’s processor, the Snapdragon 821. Now, the Snapdragon 821 is an excellent chip in its own right, but the fact remains that it just doesn’t beat the Snapdragon 835.

The onslaught doesn’t stop with the processor; the OnePlus 5 also boasts tons of RAM and storage. There are two variants of the OnePlus 5 — one with 6GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, and one with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. Compared to the Pixel’s 4GB of RAM and either 32GB or 128GB of storage, the OnePlus 5 is the clear winner here.

Between the better processor and the ability to get up to double the amount of RAM as the Pixel, the OnePlus 5 scores the win here.

Winner: OnePlus 5

Design, display, and durability

oneplus 5 scrolling front
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The OnePlus 5 has been criticized as being an “iPhone copy,” and while that certainly looks to be the case, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s a sleek look, one based on simplicity. The device features the OnePlus logo squarely on the back, along with a dual camera in the upper-left corner, which is raised slightly from the body. The front is also a little basic. Here, you’ll find the display, which sits in at 5.5-inches, as well as a home button on the bottom of the device. Some are likely to be disappointed that OnePlus hasn’t adopted a full-width display like that of the Galaxy S8, but the display is one of the primary ways in which OnePlus cuts costs, so it’s not all that surprising to see it stick with what it has.

The design of the Pixel XL is also somewhat basic, but a little different than the OnePlus 5. On the back, you’ll find the top half is made of glass, while the bottom half is metal. You’ll also find the fingerprint sensor toward the top of the back, whereas the OnePlus 5’s fingerprint sensor is built directly into the home button. The front of the Pixel does away with the home button in favor of software controls.

Design is subjective, but some aspects of design are not. For example, the OnePlus 5 is significantly thinner than the Pixel XL, coming in at just 7.25mm, whereas the Pixel XL comes in at 8.5mm. The Pixel XL excels in display — while both have the same 5.5-inch screen, the Pixel XL has a higher resolution. The OnePlus 5 offers a 5.5-inch display with a 1,920 x 1,080 pixel resolution.

Durability is also an important thing to consider, though it’s a little harder to determine a winner in this category. Neither the Pixel or the OnePlus 5 are explicitly water-resistant, so you won’t want to use them near a pool or in the bath. That leaves only breakage — and considering the fact that half of the Pixel’s back is glass, we think the OnePlus 5 will probably prove to be more durable.

We’re giving the win here to the OnePlus 5 because it’s thinner and less fragile, but the Pixel XL has a higher resolution, and sharper screen. Keep in mind there’s also the $650 Pixel, which has a 5-inch screen with a 1,080 pixel resolution. If you prefer a higher resolution screen, and you like the look of the Pixel XL more — go for it.

Winner: OnePlus 5

Battery life and charging

google pixel high demand low supply xl home

While the Pixel XL has a bigger battery (3,450mAh) than the OnePlus 5 (3,300mAh), it also has a higher-resolution screen — that drains the battery faster. In our usage, we’ve found the OnePlus 5 to have better battery life. It’s likely also the work of the Snapdragon 835, which is a more battery-efficient processor.

The OnePlus 5 also boasts OnePlus’ proprietary fast-charging technology called Dash Charge, which is one of the best quick-charging methods available. The Pixel does feature fast-charging tech, but it’s not as fast as the OnePlus 5.

Winner: OnePlus 5

Camera

oneplus 5 camera
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The camera has become one of the more important aspects to consider when buying a smartphone, likely because it allows us to leave our traditional point-and-shoot camera at home. Thankfully, the OnePlus 5 boasts an excellent camera, but it can’t quite match the Pixel XL.

The rear camera on the OnePlus 5 is a dual camera, one that features both a 16-megapixel main lens and 20-megapixel telephoto lens, which helps it impart photos with a “bokeh” or blur effect. The main lens also has an aperture of f/1.7, which is relatively large, and should help the camera in low-light situations. The front-facing camera is rated at 8 megapixels.

The Pixel, on the other hand, is slightly less technical. There’s only one 12.3 megapixel camera on the rear with an aperture of f/2.0. The front-facing camera sits at 8 megapixels, like the OnePlus 5. Based on our usage, the Pixel XL still reigns king as the best smartphone camera. It take snappy, incredible photos in varying environments. That doesn’t mean the OnePlus 5 is bad — you can still take some great shots, and you may find the portrait mode to be more useful than Lens Blur on the Pixel.

Winner: Pixel XL

Software

android 711 developer preview 2 google pixel bestof

The software on these two phones is fairly similar, and for many, that’s a good thing. More and more customers are beginning to demand so-called “stock Android,” or plain Android as Google intended it. That’s largely what the Pixel offers — a plain yet easy-to-use Android experience. The OnePlus 5 offers a similar experience with OxygenOS. The Pixel XL runs Android 7.1.2 Nougat, while the OnePlus 5’s OS is based on Android 7.1.1 Nougat.

Using OxygenOS, you’ll find a few differences that you won’t find elsewhere. For example, the Oxygen Shelf feature is hidden to the left of the home screen where you would otherwise find Google Now, and it’s aimed at giving you bite-sized pieces of information when you need them. It can also be deactivated, if you so choose. OxygenOS also offers a ton more customization than the Pixel’s software, which gives it an edge.

But there’s another thing to consider here, and it’s updates. If you’re into quick and reliable updates, then the Pixel XL is the better option. As a Google-built device, it’ll get updates as soon as they’re available. OnePlus hasn’t been bad with software updates, but the OnePlus 5 won’t beat the Pixel in this regard. OnePlus seems to also cut off support for its older devices quicker than Google.

Winner: Pixel XL

Price and availability

oneplus 5 scrolling front
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

OnePlus is known for offering top-tier specs at a reasonable price point, and this year is no different. While the 32GB and 128GB configurations of the Pixel sits in at $649 and $749, respectively, the OnePlus 5 undercuts both by a mile. A 128GB model of the OnePlus 5 with 8GB of RAM will only set you back $540, and there’s a cheaper version for $480, which comes with 6GB of RAM and 64GB of storage.

Now, the price makes the OnePlus a clear winner here, but there are a few caveats. For starters, the Pixel is available online, from both Best Buy and Verizon, and is compatible with all four major carriers in the United States. The OnePlus 5 is only available from the OnePlus website, and is not compatible with CMDA networks, which cuts out Verizon and Sprint.

Still, if you are willing to buy the phone outright, and are taking it to a GSM network, the OnePlus 5 is the clear winner here.

Winner: OnePlus 5

Overall winner: OnePlus 5

This one is pretty easy to judge — and that’s because one of these phones is a 2017 flagship, while the other is a 2016 flagship. It will be a harder decision when the Pixel’s successor enters the mix, but for now, the OnePlus 5 is the phone to get if you’re deciding between these two, especially if you’re on a GSM network.

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